I am Craig
It is said that there are less than 10 living super Tuskers in the world. These are elephants which tusks are so long, that they literally touch the ground. At the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro, in southern Amboseli, the world’s largest tusker of all time was killed in 1898, with tusks weighing 102 and 97 kg, respectively, and measuring more than 3 m in length. On average, a tusk of an adult elephant weighs about 45 kg. So an elephant with tusks weighing over 90 kg on both sides must have been incredibly powerful, and the fact that it was killed is tragic.
It is not surprising that a few elephants in Amboseli carry these genes for huge tusks to this day. Although they are always watched by armed rangers, it is common for the solitary bulls to seclude themselves for weeks or even months and not be seen.
Although Amboseli is home to several very large elephants, there is one bull that really stands out. His name is “Craig” and he is the cousin of the legendary “Tim.” Both animals look very similar – “Tim” was considered the largest elephant with the longest tusks in the world for decades. Since his passing in February 2020, it is now “Craig” who holds that title. His tusks are estimated to weigh 70 and 80 kg with a length of 2.10 m and a height of 3.35 m (Facts about elephants Amboselis: www.elephanttrust.org).
After long, unsuccessful searches on various previous trips, I felt incredibly humbled when I now saw this outstanding living testimony of natural history right in front of me in January. We were very lucky, as it was only through the intense support of good Maasai friend that we managed to find Craig about 70km outside Amboseli National Park in an area called Kuku – it seemed as if he was on his way to Tsavo West. I was overwhelmed by his grace. This towering giant is so gentle and peaceful – all the while curiously interested in me without even the slightest sense of threat. Our situation was so uniquely relaxed that he let me come within a very few meters of him. My heartbeat increased as I chose my 50 millimeter lens to take a full-frame portrait of what I thought was the world’s largest elephant in front of the breathtaking scenery of the Kilimanjaro in the beautiful morning light.
Right before I was in Amboseli/ Kenya again in January 2023, the animals there went through a severe dry season. Very little rain, as well as barely fresh plants had the consequence that thousands of animals died of starvation/thirst. Already on my arrival on the way from Amboseli Airstrip to my camp, I felt the effects.
In neighboring regions of Amboseli, it had previously rained significantly more, which meant that there were almost no animals present in Amboseli National Park.
My guide Juma knew that the region Kimana, about 2 hours away from our camp, should be much more lively and populated by elephants. It was worth a try, I thought… so we set out one morning.
Without much expectation we set off, as dry as it was in Amboseli, it couldn’t really be any different just 2 hours away… On the way there I already noticed how the clouds were closing in on the sky. A veil covered the entire sky, even the Kilimanjaro completely disappeared.
Arrived in the Sanctuary, it took my breath away. One meter high grass as far as the eye can see, trees, bushes… everything was alive, fertile and green. As ordered, the veil of clouds opened and Kilimanjaro adorned the horizon.
Now only the elephants were missing, I thought. Juma explained to me that most of the elephants stop overnight in a small forest on one side of the sanctuary and in the morning walk across an open field, to the other side into a marshland and spend the rest of the day there. So the window of opportunity I had in case of an encounter was extremely small.
Nevertheless, we were waiting by a small hill when it actually happened. We saw a gigantic herd, consisting of at least 30 animals, making their way to the marsh. I positioned myself, early on for the perfect frame and was finally able to take my picture. A moment of true goosebumps and when I look at the picture myself I feel that I have found it… my “Garden of Eden”.